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2004 Nissan Maxima new car review

Bob Plunkett

2004 Nissan Maxima Road Test Review2004 Volvo S80 sedan

It's bigger now in all dimensions with a forceful V6 aboard pumping top-of-class power and two trim designations skewed toward either a sporty mode for gearbox and suspension or a comfort mode with deluxe content for downright elegant motoring.

Nissan crafts it as a four-door sports car under the flagship banner of Maxima for 2004 in a sixth generational remake that reaches from the roof to the rails.

Wheelbase for Maxima as a 2004 model stretches for an inch longer than the previous version. The overall structure increases about two inches in length by almost an inch and a half in width and two more inches in height.

Wheels also spread wider on the new chassis, expanding to 61.6 inches up front and 61.6 inches in the rear with the 17-inch wheel and tire package on Maxima's luxury issue, or 61 inches in front and 61.2 inches at the rear with 18-inch wheels and tires for the sport-tuned model. Pushing wheels to edges of the platform adds stability to the stance and enhances Maxima's agility when cornering. Also, the expanded structure creates a larger passenger compartment. There's 103.6 cubic feet of space in the cabin plus a trunk in back with 15.5 cubic feet for gear.

Check out that bold new exterior design for the expanded Maxima package. It looks crisp and clean with curvaceous lines but flat surfaces and chiseled corners in an overall effect that seems both sensuous but also muscular in the suggestion of power and speed.

The taut skin stretches over exaggerated shoulders and flat side panels interrupted by bulging fenders and pronounced character lines. More smooth lines from the arching profile taper forward to the rounded prow arranged with a broad horizontal grille and huge triangular headlamp clusters at the corners.

At the back of an arching roof the rear pillars work out a unique design that suggests a couple-like silhouette. And the tail is tall with a high deck over the trunk to carve out more room inside for storage. Trailing below Maxima's back bumper are double dual exhaust mufflers with chromed tips on the pipes.

These crisp exterior designs hint at the persona of Maxima and its powerful engine, although the spacious passenger cabin with amenities for comfort portrays a different image, one of four-door convenience and people-toting capability. Such contradiction defines a unique position for Maxima in a crowded field of mid-size sedans where one model often appears essentially similar to the next: Nissan makes Maxima different from that lot.

It's larger than the others, incredibly comfortable in the cabin, but also so sharp in style that it stands apart.

Concepts for the new design came from Nissan's designers in Japan, but assembly occurs in the United States at a massive manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn., where Nissan's patented Intelligent Body Assembly System welds chassis, bodyside panels, roof and other key parts simultaneously to forge an extremely rigid body structure.

New mechanical hardware mounts on Maxima's structure, beginning with an independent suspension system adapted from Nissan's Skyline supercar that's available only in Japan. The arrangement has an ingenious multi-link independent suspension in the rear that produces firm stability to keep the tail in line by minimizing camber change when tracking around a tight corner.

Shocks and springs at rear wheels stand apart from one another to trim friction and each shock lines up with the center of the wheel for acute damping but low harshness.

Maxima's two trims vary suspension tuning. The 3.5 SE version uses a performance-tuned suspension for tight handling control, and the comfort-oriented 3.5 SL edition has cushy settings for a luxurious ride quality. Brakes set a big disc for each wheel, and a four-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS) is also on hand.

The ABS package adds electronic brake distribution (EBD) to modulate the force of braking against various load factors, plus brake assist (BA) that goes to work during a panic stop with full-force braking effort to reduce the emergency stopping distance.

Other safety systems include a sturdy steel cage wrapping the passenger compartment and dual-stage frontal air bags. Side-impact air bags mount in front seat bolsters and curtain-style air bags tuck in the headliner above front and back side windows.
Then there's that power posture fueled by a big V6.

Maxima's sophisticated 3.5-liter six, with dual cams on top and four valves in each cylinder plus an electronically-controlled drive-by-wire throttle, produces 265 hp at 5800 rpm and torque churning to 255 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.

For sporty 3.5 SE trim, the engine connects to a smooth electronic automatic five-speed transmission with convenient manual shift mode or -- in the ultimate performance version — the six-speed close-ratio manual stick lifted from Nissan's 350Z sports car. With the six-speed manual, a helical limited-slip differential is optional to boost traction.

For Maxima's elegant 3.5 SL trim, the engine links to a four-speed automatic transmission with gated shifter. For either automatic transmission, a new vehicle dynamic control (VDC) with traction control system (TCS) is optional for enhanced stability.

We sample all shifter variations during a day of driving on a diverse course leading through the grid streets of Houston and a shot up the I-45 freeway to Conroe but also around wiggly Texas 336 that loops through rolling pine forests in Montgomery County.

And we're impressed by Maxima's performance pose and its attitude as well as the cabin design that's airy and spacious with clever innovations added.

Maxima's cockpit provides twin front bucket seats separated by a console, with a rear bench in sculptured positions for two but space for three. The optional Elite Package on 3.5 SE brings a four-seat plan with buckets front and rear, while a new Skyview Roof shows glass extending above both front and rear seats.

Expect MSRP points for Maxima to begin at $26,950.

Click here for more information on the Nissan Maxima.
For the Nissan 2004 Model Guide : Click Here